Let us have some fun!
This is the first article in a three-part review of Simon Goodfellow’s Tarot deck. Readers should consider the report is written as focussed on Simon’s deck. I have attempted to avoid comparisons although because of the style of the deck, in the early paragraphs references to Pamela Coleman Smiths design will be inevitable.
During a conversation with Simon, he commented the design had traditional symbolism which is taken to a more contemporary level. The cards have to compliment his Tarot courses and be easy to interpret. Designing the cards was a two-year task and one which requires careful consideration. To my mind, it is essential to keep the essence of the traditional purpose of the seventy-eight mysteries. However, the design must inevitably reveal some of the designer’s psyche. Therefore it is difficult to achieve a balance between the symbolism of The Book of Tarot and the designer’s sub-conscious influence.
In Simon’s case, the problem is more significant. His deck design must acknowledge the traditional symbolism, bring in modern cyphers and then allow the student to make the cards her own! We must address this statement with care:
When looking at the cards for the first time, a seasoned Tarotist will see the significance of the Major and Minor Arcana. Simon has chosen to keep the twenty-two majors and the four suits. Although he has changed the suit titles to Gems – Swords – Hearts – Keys. While he has chosen to replace the images on the cards, it is not too difficult to decipher some (not all) of the traditional design. I will write about this in the third part of the review. Although for the moment my comment is this: Simon has updated the traditional deck and produced an excellent teaching deck and a professional working tool. Let us investigate further.
Simon teaches many students. If the deck becomes saturated with his interpretation of the Tarot, then the pupils will inevitably become clone readers. Pamela Colman Smith knew this when designing her deck. ( Waite did not ultimately draw and colour the deck – Coleman Smith is the architect ) It is my task to discover if Simon achieves this challenging goal. Subsequently, this is a long three-day review.
Furthermore, Simon is a reader of many years, and thousands of clients experience. This puts him in a unique position to produce this ‘signature’ deck. Thousands of readings and years of experience must influence the final design of the deck. Therefore, my responsibility is to discover if Simon has designed a ‘run of the mill’ Rider clone or produced a worthy addition to a Tarot library.
Although I have known Simon for many years. Readers should understand this is an unbiased assessment of the deck. My reputation as a reviewer would be ruined if the cards were not reasonably assessed. I feel this deck is one of significance and will be used by many people. Therefore every aspect should come under scrutiny.
A sturdy box is essential with Tarot cards, and the choice of card is heavy enough to protect the cards over years of use. The front of the box is the facsimile of the card backs, and Simon has used the King of Gems as the title image. It is a nice touch and guides the potential owner into what can be expected.
The immediate impression is one of quality. The cards have a gloss finish which is heavy and durable. Some readers believe clients like to see a heavily used deck on the table. Maybe the reason is the well-worn deck indicates experience of the ‘reader’. My preference is for nice clean cards: this gives the client an impression of clarity and quality. The gloss finish is durable and should keep the cards in pristine condition for well over a year of professional use. Of course, the deck would be serviceable for many years if the preference is for the ‘aged’ look!
The heavy gloss ensures long life and usability, although, the cards will need an hour or so of use before they fan and shuffle without sticking. Incidentally, a product called ‘fanning powder’ can be used to remove initial stickiness of new cards. I’m sure Simon would have considered this aspect when opting for the heavy gloss finish. To my mind, he has made the correct decision. After all, the deck is designed to be heavily used by students, and later endure the rigours of professional work.
An immediate observation is the physical size of the deck. Measurements are 7.5 X 11 cm. A manageable size, slightly larger than standard playing cards. Simon made a brave and admirable choice to stay away from the traditional Tarot size format. Readers and clients will find it easy to hold in the hand. This size is convenient for carrying in a small bag or jacket pocket.
A final point: This size of the card means a spread such as the Celtic Cross can be used on a small table. Another plus for the professional reader.
Simon’s deck is designed for professional work. Its hard and durable gloss finish requires a ‘running in’ period. After around an hour of appraisal, the cards fan and shuffle well. Dimensions are perfect for continuous use, and clients will find them easy to shuffle. The compact size means professional readers could carry a small bag containing the deck and silk cloth and be ready to work in a couple of minutes. Consider the deck as a professional working tool. Remember it is designed by someone who is one of the country’s leading readers, he has considered the physical aspects from a professional perspective. The ‘professional’ aspect of the cards is a proper consideration for occasional Tarot users: a deck would last a lifetime.
If the cards colouring were ‘flat’ the cards would be marked down. As the size of the deck demands, a bright and vibrant palette. When the student begins to interpret the imagery, colour is the first psychological association. The symbolism and imagery have to be well defined for the meanings to enter the memory. A well-designed deck will make it easy to remember the primary meaning. Once this is accomplished, the student can take possession of the deck and expand the interpretation in their way. The deck performs this very well indeed. High marks for colour and the symbolism.
Simon must have been tempted to avoid all association with Pamela’s Rider deck. I am pleased he resisted. His subtle adaptation of the one-hundred and nine-year-old symbolism works well for our era. Be clear there is a reference to the Smith deck. However, it is subtle and never overdone. Many cards have little or no association with the well-known yardstick of Tarot. These cards are right up to date and therefore suitable for their design purpose.
Summary of colour, definition and symbolism:
Good definition, up to date symbolism, bright and useful colours, enough imagery to make learning the basic meanings a straightforward and pleasurable task. A small criticism is the surrounding border is too broad. My personal preference would be to extend the imagery nearer to the edge of the card.
I remember talking to a brilliant reader; we discussed the Major Arcana (MA) as a stand-alone reading instrument. We agreed a single or three card spread using the MA can reveal interesting insights. Therefore a three card spread using the MA will be used used to test the symbolism. Note: There is NO reference to the small information card the MA is shuffled, and three cards are taken from the pile.
I have covered the feel and visual aspects of this deck and tomorrow we will look at the Major Arcana. Before I leave you we will test the cards in a small spread:
The spread is used as a focal point of meditation:
The Three Cards:
For meditational purposes, the cards guide the reader to turn around and see what is facing him. This seems to be a better way than moving into areas of uncertainty. Facts, truth, certainty and reality should be keys words to the future. By addressing the circumstances of any situation and by making moral and fair choices, answers will be found to the most difficult of situations. It is essential for the reader to understand the power of conviction, and integrity. The Moon is well placed to help with deciphering the cards, indicating the reasons for changes being experienced at present are soon to be discovered. The reader is guided to see issues as better dealt with alone, rather than seeking help from others.
After rereading the spontaneous interpretation the answer to the question: “Are Simon’s cards able to evoke clear messages from the symbolism and imagery?’ Must be resounding “Yes”.
Let us meet tomorrow and investigate the Major Arcana of Simon Goodfellow’s Spiritual Tarot a little further.